Most USAmericans are familiar with these oft-quoted words expressed in the beginning of The Declaration of Independence:
"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."
The Declaration continues, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government..."
Most USAmericans are not, however, as familiar with how the Declaration of Independence concludes:
We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
To be a USAmerican, a citizen of a country founded on a recognition of these unalienable rights, is to be blessed with both our rights and our responsibility to uphold these rights with our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. We promise each other to protect these rights with our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor, so that we may all enjoy the rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Particularly in light of the coming election, it seems important to ask ourselves as citizens and ask our politicians as representatives of we the people: how are we living up to this promise? How are our lives, fortunes, and honor upholding the rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, not only for ourselves—our respective families, friends, religions, ethnicities, political parties, etc.—but for all of us as citizens of these United States? How are we representing these ideals beyond these United States?
In the midst of all the political pageantry and punditry that fall far short of our country's noble promise, perhaps it is high time for each of us to recall our important role in forming this more perfect Union, and perform our civic duty with as much care, integrity and courage as our founders intended when they entrusted us with this tremendous responsibility in the first place. It seems to me that only when we recognize that each of us is accountable to all of us for upholding the unalienable rights on which this nation was founded and votes his or her conscience with this in mind, will our votes be worthy of something other than the status quo, which jeopardizes our democracy to serve select self-interests.